Important Behavioral Skills That Employers Value

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With any and all jobs, there are certain specific skills required to perform the work well. Required skills will vary from position to position, and you can learn what they are by reading job descriptions. But there are other skills that almost all jobs require, and hiring supervisors may not think to mention them.

What Are Behavioral Skills?

Behavioral skills often fall under the general heading of good character, friendliness, maturity, or common sense, and many people assume they come naturally as part of being good or smart—they don’t. These are skills that must be learned and practiced. The good news, it's entirely possible to develop these behavioral skills at any time.

Many of these behavioral skills are social in nature. They concern how well you can get along with other people, including your supervisor, your colleagues, customers, and clients.

The Top 4

Good communication actually consists of many different sub-skills, from appropriate patterns of body language and eye contact to the ability to write clear and accurate reports. Accurate listening and the ability to follow instructions are especially important but are often ignored or taken for granted. Many people simply do not pay close attention to what others say or write and do not ask follow-up questions to check their understanding. As a result, individuals act on their own inaccurate assumptions and create inefficiencies and frustrations at work. If you can really listen, your work will be a cut above many of your competitors.

Goal-Setting and Planning
Anybody can wish for something to happen, but to accomplish anything (except by accident), you have to make a plan—which surprisingly few people know how to do. Planning requires setting concrete goals, identifying workable action steps, and making a commitment to see the plan through. Even setting the initial goal can be difficult when multiple issues are competing for attention. Effective planning requires arranging problems by importance and, often, delegation. It is impossible to do everything at once, but if you focus on the most important tasks and ask for help, you can accomplish a lot.

Numeracy is to math what literacy is to written language. Surprisingly, many adults are functionally innumerate, despite knowing how to solve complex math problems. Numeracy means being able to think clearly and intelligently about numbers in real life, not just on a test.

A classic example of innumeracy is reacting differently to news stories or advertising depending on whether the same quantity is expressed as a percent, a decimal, or a fraction—and most people do just that, which is why sale signs always use percent. Becoming numerate is an important part of critical thinking.

Being an empathetic individual comes naturally to some, but is less natural to others. Behaving with empathy means more than feeling bad for someone who's sad, or sharing in someone else's joy. It means being able to step into someone else's world to understand not just what their point of view is, but also why they have that point of view.

The boss might be angry because she's feeling undue pressure you're not aware of. A colleague might have a large ego about a project because they're afraid of losing their job. You never know what other people have going on. Empathy is a behavioral skill that can help you to not only keep your own peace of mind but can also help you to grow in your career because empathetic people tend to put others at ease.

Skills List

Here is a list of behavioral skills. Required skills will vary based on the job for which you're applying, so also review our list of skills listed by job and type of skill.

A – Z

  • Accountability
  • Accurate Listening
  • Analytical Thinking
  • Answering a Complaint
  • Apologizing
  • Arranging Problems by Importance
  • Assertiveness
  • Asking for Help
  • Asking Permission
  • Asking Questions
  • Attention to Detail
  • Avoiding Trouble with Others
  • Being a Good Sport
  • Commitment
  • Communication
  • Concentration
  • Conceptual Thinking
  • Conversing
  • Convincing
  • Creative Thinking
  • Creativity
  • Customer Focus
  • Dealing with Emotions
  • Delegation
  • Diplomacy
  • Decision Making
  • Directing
  • Empathy
  • Expressing Affection
  • Expressing Feeling
  • Eye Contact
  • Flexibility
  • Following Directions
  • Following Instruction
  • Gathering Information
  • Gestures
  • Giving Compliments
  • Giving Instruction
  • Goal Setting

H - M

  • Helping Others
  • Honesty
  • Improvisation
  • Initiative
  • Integrity
  • Interaction with People
  • Interpersonal
  • Introducing Others
  • Introducing Yourself
  • Interviewing
  • Joining In on Events
  • Keeping out of Fights
  • Leadership
  • Listening
  • Logical Thinking
  • Management
  • Making Decisions
  • Monitoring
  • Motivation

N - S

T - Z

How to Use Skills Lists

When you apply for a new position, make sure to read the job description carefully. Identify the skills you have that your prospective employer wants, and remember to highlight these in your resume, cover letter, and job interview. Be prepared with examples that demonstrate your use of each sought-after skill.

Some required behavioral skills, such as taking the initiative, will likely be listed in the job description. Others, such as controlling your own emotions, may not be listed because the hiring supervisor may simply assume applicants will have the skill. In those cases, it could actually be counterproductive to highlight the skill when you apply; doing so is the equivalent of boasting that you can dress yourself. It could make you look bad to overstate the basics. 

Some hiring supervisors may ask about skills that others just take for granted. Be prepared to give examples of all the relevant skills that you have, even if you doubt the interviewer will ask. 

You can use the following list not just to get an idea of what employers may be looking for, but also to identify areas where you need to study up.

Skills Lists